‘Mama!’ teen screams in court, accused of killing Columbus woman while stealing gun

Screams erupted in a Columbus courtroom Thursday as a 15-year-old accused of fatally shooting a woman while stealing her brother’s gun fought deputies escorting him out after his hearing.

“Mama!” Jabori Baptiste yelled as he struggled to get back into the courtroom, where a woman screamed and wailed in response. Sheriff’s deputies wrestled with Bapiste while trying to restrain him, while other officers rushed his relatives out of the Recorder’s Court building on 10th Street.

Outside, the ruckus continued as Baptiste’s family saw the suspect was still fighting with deputies trying to get him into a patrol car. The shouting resumed, and it took several minutes for officers to get the teen securely into the cruiser. The car raced away toward the Aaron Cohn Regional Youth Detention Center, where Baptiste is being held.

Though he is being charged as an adult with felony murder and robbery, Recorder’s Court Judge David Ranieri allowed no news media to photograph or record the suspect in court because he is a juvenile.

What happened?

During the teen’s preliminary hearing, Detective Roy Green testified that Baptiste was among a multitude of teens who converged March 24 on the Mystic Mart, 645 Brown Ave., first entering the store and then congregating outside.

That’s where Baptiste, wearing a pink mask, approached Eugene Bell by the gas pumps and tried to snatch Bell’s handgun away from him, Green said. As they fought over the gun, Bell’s sister, Natalie Bell, tried to break up the fight, and the weapon went off, fatally wounding her, the detective said.

He said Baptiste ran away with the gun. Natalie Bell was rushed to Piedmont Columbus Regional, where an emergency room doctor pronounced her dead at 11:49 a.m., about 45 minutes after the shooting. She was 39.

Green said store surveillance video captured images of Baptiste’s face, clearly visible on camera inside the business, and the mask he used outside did not entirely cover his features. Muscogee County School District Police, along with Baptiste’s probation officer, identified the youth from those images, he said.

Baptiste was arrested at 2:15 p.m. Monday.

Ranieri ordered Baptist held without bond as the case proceeds to Muscogee Superior Court.